Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bad Words

First, I must tell you a little about Hubby's upbringing.

He grew up in a small, Hee-Haw salute-population town in the panhandle of our great state. I mean small. Nearby "towns" barely qualify as towns, as they are no more than five houses, a bar, and an itty-bitty post office. (When we returned there for his dad's funeral, everyone who showed up at the funeral home to pay their respects during the calling hours knew who I was. I knew very few of them, by comparison.) Didn't get a McDonald's until 1994, and it's the smallest McDonald's I've ever seen. One traffic light...until sometime in the last year and a half, when it got another near the school. Moons ago there had been a blinking yellow light at that location, but it was gone by the time Hubby and I married in 1996. (We were surprised when we saw the new light when we arrived in town for Thanksgiving last year.)

The two closest NFL teams to this humble little borough are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

Hubby, like his older brother and his late father, is a Cleveland Browns fan. Despite their abysmal win/loss ratio, they are his team. If the Browns aren't playing, he's rooting for whoever is playing the Steelers, their chosen archnemesis. When the Browns moved to Baltimore briefly and became the Ravens, he rooted for whoever was playing against both the Steelers and the Ravens, unless the two teams were playing each other. Then he was a Ravens fan. He was nearly ecstatic when the Browns returned to Cleveland.

Shortly after our marriage, we were back visiting his family, and Hubby's sister Lou informed me that, as a Henley female, I was now obligated to be a Steelers fan. All Henley women are Steelers fans, just to needle the Henley men.

Where we live now is solidly Steelers and Penn State territory, which makes Hubby something of a sports outcast, since he's not only a Browns fan but also an OSU Buckeyes fan. Hubby taught the girls to say they didn't like Penn State because "Joe Pa's too old!" And he's been raising them to not be Steelers fans.

Now, I told you that to tell you this.

I got an email from Small Fry's teacher late this afternoon. She explained that Small had been increasingly distracted today, pestering other students, and—the biggie—another student had reported that Small had used a "bad language word" during center time.

Oh boy.

I read this email about 15 minutes before Hubby needed to leave for tonight's worship team rehearsal. Good thing we only live five minutes from the church, and I pulled both him and Small Fry into the kitchen when it was ten minutes until practice time.

"I got an email from your teacher today," I said to Small, focusing on her, even though Hubby didn't know where this was going to be going. He's a smart guy. He'll catch up. "She said you weren't focusing and staying on task today. And she said another student said you said a bad word during center time."

Hubby chimed in. "What did you say?"

Small fidgeted. "It just slipped out."

Exactly what her teacher had said Small had said when asked about it. "What did you say?"

"The s word," Small mumbled.

"What s word?" I asked. Where in the world did she learn that word?

Small clammed up.

"You're not going to get in trouble," Hubby assured her. "But we need to know what you said."

Small looked back and forth between us.

"We need to know, honey," I said.

"I said stupid."

Okay, that's better than what I was fearing.

Hubby asked, "Did you call one of your classmates stupid?"

Small's ponytail swung as she shook her head no.

"Then what happened?"

Small related that center time conversation had been about sports.

Specifically, the Steelers.

Hubby and I looked at each other, understanding dawning.

"So I said 'The Steelers are stupid,'" Small concluded.

I clapped a hand over my mouth while Hubby's eyes widened to the point I thought his head would explode with the effort of keeping his laughter contained.

"Yes, you probably shouldn't have said that. And you probably should not use that word again." Hubby was somehow able to talk normally. "And you need to listen to your teacher and focus on what she tells you to do. But thank you for telling us." Hubby smiled at her. "You can go back to the den now."

Small beamed and skipped back.

We waited until we knew she was in the other room before we let ourselves laugh hysterically (and as quietly as possible).

Of all the things...

"This is your fault!" I whispered through giggles. "She's heard you say that!"

"I'm happy to take the blame for that one," Hubby giggled back.  "Hoo hoo hoo! That's just..." He broke off to chortle some more. "You've definitely got to email her teacher back."

"I know."

Hubby wiped his eyes and tried once again to contain his laughter. "I've gotta go. Oooo, gotta love second-grade bad words."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Miles and Miles

Today, I have felt every last one of them.

Three hundred twenty-seven miles.

My heart has ached as those miles seemed so much longer, the distance so much sharper.

It started with a text message from JJ that chimed in at 8:02 this morning:
So today is the day we have all been dreading since September. The trip to the vet.
My heart squeezed hard and cracked. I knew what this meant.

JJ had been forced to retire Aussie back in September when neurological issues led to lameness in one of his rear legs, and thus an inability to work. Aussie could not guide effectively and safely if he could not walk. It would be dangerous all around...and the vet could offer no treatment that would allow Aussie to regain full use of his body.

Aussie, 11/08
But he was otherwise in good health. Despite the unexpected retirement—JJ had expected him to be able to work for several more years—Aussie was still a part of the family. Still her boys' dog. Still very much loved. Until his condition deteriorated to the point that it became obvious it was time, there was no reason for him to not have a good life as an idle retiree.

As idle as it could be with the arrival of a new retriever puppy, anyway.

When we lost Pa'ani so unexpectedly back in December, it was JJ's shoulder I leaned heavily on. Tear-filled emails and texts...it was so unfair to lose him, so young, so unexpectedly, so right before Christmas. Aussie was 7, and she was quite literally watching him wither away...JJ understood my grief, moreso than many other friends. She knew what was coming for her beloved four-footed friend, all too soon.

Thatcher & Koa, long ago.
It wasn't the first time we've walked the valley of death's shadow with each other, continuing out the other side without the furry family member we walked in with. I can still remember the night JJ called to tell me that she'd lost Thatcher. It was within the first few months of the girls coming to live with us. I sat on the steep stairs in our house, after 10 at night, grieving and trying to console my dear friend from so far away, remembering her first Seeing Eye dog, trying to keep my voice quiet enough to both not disturb Hubby (watching TV in the living room) or the Fries (sleeping upstairs in their room). And while Thatcher had spent most of the last two and a half years of his life with JJ's parents, he was still her dog, and her parents had deferred to her when the time came to make the call. Four years later, it was my turn as the grieving owner who made that same call.

Aussie's deterioration over the last week meant she would be facing the valley again.

This time would be different, I knew.

It's always different when your kids are grieving too.

Thatcher's loss hit JJ hard, but not so much her boys. T1 wasn't a year old when Thatch retired, and only four at the time of his death. T2 only really knew Thatch as the doggy at his grandparents' house, and he was not quite two. T3 wasn't a glimmer yet.

And when JJ went back to The Seeing Eye in late 2008 to be matched with a new dog, I got an email from her after match day with a subject line declaring, "It is Thatcher 2.0!"

Me, JJ, and Aussie at TSE, 11/08
He was the same cross as Thatcher, yellow Lab and Golden Retriever. Softest ears in the world. Stout, hearty...both in build and in love. A charmer. I drove to see her during her stay at The Seeing Eye, since it was close-ish (closer than the six hours that usually separate us), and it had been too long between seeing each other. He grabbed a piece of my heart as I watched him work, excited and eager to learn and loving his job. Such a good dog, and a good fit for my dearest friend.

The boys knew him. Loved him. Played with him. Probably trapped him under laundry baskets, too.

They would remember this time.

Aussie...he loved those boys nearly as much as he loved their mom, and slept in their room every night, because Uncle JD (JJ's younger brother) had told them that Aussie ate under-the-bed monsters.

Tonight, I hope the boys know that angel doggies eat monsters, too.

I hope JJ knows that.

For watching your children grieve the loss of their beloved monster-eater is worse than your own grief at times.

These are deep waters for any parent.

It's a fine line to teach your children how to grieve, to stop yourself from trying to fix that which cannot be fixed, to show that it's okay to be sad, and yet still teach how life continues on when all you want it to do is stop for awhile.

Hard at work.
Even though he was not my dog, and I did not know Aussie nearly as well as JJ and her family did, today I want the world to stop too. I ache and grieve for my best friend, for her sons, for her husband, for the miles between us that keep me from just scooting over to her house and hugging the stuffing out of her. That keep me from sitting quietly with her as she talks, or even as she doesn't. That keep me from being able to cry healing tears with her. I want the world to stop, so I can find a way to warp over there. I want to hug her boys and tell them what I know: Aussie is whole, happy, and racing around heaven, charming all he meets, just like he did here. This is not goodbye. This is "see you later," for God promises heaven will have all we need. And Aussie is needed. Of that I have no doubt.

Goodbye, dear faithful friend, hard worker, conscientious guide, monster eater, and love walking on four legs.

See you later, Aussie. See you later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

This just in!

Drumroll, please!

We have a hearing date!

April 9, 2015, we will become an official family!

*launches confetti cannon*

*earth-shattering kaboom*

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I can see through walls!

I've waited years for a superpower. I knew I had to have one...it's just been dormant, you know?

It's dormant no longer.

I have the gift of sight, I tell you!

Scene: Dining room, after dinner

Medium Fry: Can I watch TV?

Me: No. You've watched TV all day, except for when you were outside helping Daddy.

Hubby: You can read a book or play a game or go do something else. You don't need more TV.

Medium exits hallway to den. There's a mild harrumph and the sound of Duckie being picked up.

Dual Duckies.

Several moments later:

Me: Medium, are you sitting on the couch with your thumb in your mouth?

Hubby cracks up and shakes his head, keeping his chortling vewwy, vewwy quiet...

Me: Medium?

Medium: Yah?

Me: Are you sitting on the couch with your thumb in your mouth?

Medium [unapologetically]: I was...

Me: Thumb out, please.

Hubby [still chuckling]: She's good!

Me [stage whispering]: I can see through walls!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Hubby and I took Medium to see her pediatric ophthalmologist this morning. On our way back towards home (thankfully, we had only gone about a mile), we realized neither of us had gotten a doctor's note to turn in to Medium's school. Hubby quickly turned back toward the office, driving down Seminary Ridge.

Medium: What's a seminary?

Hubby: If Daddy had wanted to be a senior pastor like PeeJay, he would have to go to a school like this to learn.

Medium: What's a senior pastor?

Hubby: That's what PeeJay does. He preaches and stuff.

Medium: Why don't you do that?

Hubby: Well...

Medium: 'Cause it's boring?

I clapped my hand over my mouth to muffle my laughter.

Hubby [trying not to choke on his own chuckle]: Because that's not what God wanted me to do.

So we scooted back to the office and I hobbled back in to grab a note. Hubby decided to take a slightly different route to avoid some ice-formed potholes. And we discovered a skunk had had a disagreement with something nearby. Hubby and I both wrinkled our noses in disgust.

Hubby: Medium, put your arms down.

Medium: No, that's you.

Smart girl.